Whitby Council votes for free speech, “deploring” SBC threats

Whitby Council votes for free speech, “deploring” SBC threats


First Published April 2013

The story that has attracted tens of thousands of internet-users to the support of the Real Whitby Magazine newsblog has finally made it to the inside pages of the Whitby Gazette.

The Friday 12TH April issue of the local rag carries a quarter-page article by the paper’s reporter Emma Spencer, entitled “Whitby website served with legal letter”, and captioned ‘Council acts on alleged “defamatory” claims’.

The first four paragraphs deliver a superficial description of the letters and emails sent out by SBC’s Head of Legal, Lisa DIXON, threatening legal action (both civil and criminal) against Real Whitby and its major contributors, and threatening to close down the site unless every single reference to Scarborough Borough Council was removed within seven days. That was on the 28th March 2013 – fourteen days ago . . .

The Gazette quotes from Lisa DIXON’s threatening letter:

  • “As a result, the website contains malicious, untrue and defamatory material in relation to which the subjects of the statements made have been denied the right to comment until after publication, if at all.”

This is untrue. SBC has been notified time and again that the right to publish all or any correspondence is reserved, opportunities to comment have been offered and ignored (remember my question to SBC Leader Councillor Tom FOX regarding the Council’s plans for ex-Mayor Peter JACONELLI?), and all elected members and paid public servants enjoy the same opportunity to comment on articles as other readers. Lisa DIXON needs to get her facts straight.

And by the way, there is no obligation on investigative-journalists to solicit comments from the subjects of their exposés – which probably explains why the Gazette did not approach Real Whitby for a comment in their article.

The Gazette article makes no mention of the ensuing thrust and counterthrust of correspondence, Formal Complaints and FOIA requests for information, reported in detail here on Real Whitby – nor of the fact that the SBC Cabinet appears to have compromised itself (Formal Complaints have been lodged) by disregarding rules requiring the disclosure of personal interests and prejudices against Real Whitby  that should have barred them from taking part in the decision-making process. Thus, the legality of Lisa DIXON’s actions remains uncertain.

Quoting Councillor Ian HAVELOCK, the Gazette goes on to report:

Coun Ian Havelock proposed a motion that WTC “deplores” the use of SBC’s legal department to restrict the right of individual electors and residents to freedom of speech and to publish comments concerning the business of SBC.

He said: “The letter was extremely threatening. It has clearly touched a nerve and there is a lot of things I feel they (Real Whitby) were justified in bringing to the attention of the public.”

Councillor Mrs Amanda SMITH is reported as stating:

“My stance is that I am a staunch supporter of freedom of speech. I may not like what somebody says but I will defend their right to say it”.

This voice of reason was followed by a member of the public, Colin WINSPEAR, who said he was pursuing his own defamation case against Real Whitby. Like Lisa DIXON before him, he did not particularise. He did say, we are told, that it was hypocritical of Real Whitby to seek backing from the Town (Parish) Council when articles have been about the town council in the past.

It is true that some Real Whitby articles have been about the Whitby Town (Parish) Council, its Members and Clerks. Many of them (but not by any means all) have been highly critical – and with good reason – but what that has to do with the motion before the Council, readers will have to ask Mr Colin WINSPEAR to explain.

The motion, remember, was this:

This Council deplores the use of: Scarborough Borough Council Legal and Support Services in order to:

1. Restrict the right of individual electors and residents to freedom of speech

2. Restrict the right of individual electors and residents to publish both opinions and comment concerning the business of SBC

No reference to Real Whitby there, but apparently not everyone at the meeting could see past their personal prejudice.

The issue before Council was the right of electors and residents to freedom of speech, which in fact is already enshrined in, and guaranteed by, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, which has been ratified by the United Nations and its member states, but has apparently been abandoned by ten members of the Whitby Town (Parish) Council – one of whom actually voted against and nine of whom found the courage of their convictions and – abstained. I commend to them the words of Edmund BURKE:

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

However, despite this extraordinary failure to grasp nettle – or even the issue, the motion was carried on a vote, with a majority of five in favour, to one against.  (83.3% in favour)

In simple terms, that means that the Whitby Town (Parish) Council has agreed to “deplore” the use of: Scarborough Borough Council Legal and Support Services in order to restrict the free speech of individual electors and to restrict the right of individual electors to publish comments and opinions. Bravo! Sterling stuff.

With that ringing endorsement, Real Whitby will continue to:

  • scrutinise the public record through the use, when necessary, of the rights available under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000,
  • correspond and confer with elected members and paid public servants (including those within SBC and NYCC who, having no confidence in their Councils’ ‘whistle-blowing’ procedures, have provided internal information to us, in the public interest)
  • interview contemporary witnesses and take statements, in writing or in audio format
  • liaise with other anti-corruption investigators in Yorkshire and beyond
  • publish accurate and fully substantiated articles addressing wrong-doing in our local authorities.

Thank you for your continued and fast-growing support.

Lisa on leave

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11 Responses to "Whitby Council votes for free speech, “deploring” SBC threats"

  1. Brian  April 11, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    This is a brilliant result, it goes a long way to show there is a dire need for good, honest members of the public to publish, in the public interest, any and all evidence of corrupt practices by elected members of our local council and paid public servants, a massive congratulations to Nigel and all the people involved in The Real Whitby Magazine.

  2. admin  April 11, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Colin WINSPEAR, who said he was pursuing his own defamation case against Real Whitby. Like Lisa DIXON before him, he did not particularise. He did say, we are told, that it was hypocritical of Real Whitby to seek backing from the Town (Parish) Council when articles have been about the town council in the past.

    Gee what a man he is. We never sought backing from the town council They offered it. I certainly never asked them, and the first I knew was when I saw the agenda. That said, Im very grateful to the town council, in particular Ian Havelock who has been a great support in this stressful time.

  3. A Green  April 12, 2013 at 1:26 am

    I find it very hard to believe that the borough have left themselves open to ridicule over what should have been an obvious gaffe. Do we employ professionals there or not?

    Clearly, it shows measure of desperation laced with incompetance for them to have gone down this road. 1 out 10 Try again.

  4. James Miller  April 12, 2013 at 9:33 am

    I have been following this (non) story and want to add my congratulations to Nigel, Tim, admin and everybody who has been involved.

    The main thing that puzzles me about the Gazette’s story is though, how do you ‘serve a legal letter’? You serve a warrant or a court order or a legal requirement laid down by a court of law but you don’t serve a ‘legal’ letter, you send a solicitors letter, which is usually either a request for information or (as in this case) a threat to take legal action. The solicitor’s letter has no real standing in law, other than it comes from a member of the Law Society or a member of the bar, therefore it cannot be ‘served’. It appears that the Whitby Gazette (which I rarely read) has gone the same way as the Scarborough News (which I also rarely read)in printing half baked, half truth nonsenses and saying that they are facts.

  5. Tom Brown  April 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    In my experience Whitby Town Councillors are usually cowed by SBC and given the results of the vote its still happening with of course the expected opposition from certain parties. Methinks those parties doth protest too much.Nevertheless the fight goes on.
    We the public are paying exorbitant fees to so called solicitors who purport to act for SBC only to pay to be attacked by them.Our champion Nigel of the family Ward (very important that first name)does an untrained but far superior job of attacking them by pointing out their disgraceful behaviour, so well a job perhaps that they are feeling very nervous indeed. Read All About It in Real Whitby and see for yourselves if the articles are not well deserved. They are certainly well received!

  6. Tom Brown  April 12, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Think about it. Real Whitby has. or has not been hacking the phones of recently bereaved parents of a murdered child.
    IF SO SHUT THEM UP but if they have not done that, SHUT THEM UP ANYWAY they are capable of letting us know that the DEMOCRATIC SBC is dead and SBC PLC is alive and well and on the attack and CONTROLLING.

  7. Jonathon Chapman  April 14, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Glenn, on the subject of free speech, is there any chance you could open up your “Questions From Reporter Anne Czernik” to comments?

  8. Brian Dodds  June 17, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    So, one of the local news sheets has, at last,given some space to this sorry tale of scandal and corruption. I t would have been a lot more newsworthy if they had got all their facts right and printed the full story with comments from the Real Whitby team, but I suppose that is asking too much in this day and age.Congratulations to Tim, Nigel and all the team at Real Whitby, top job guys.

  9. diana langley  August 17, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    My son falsely charged placed 2 x . Public corruption. I APPRECIATE THE EXCELLENT PUBLISHING OF THIS. WEBSITE. D.J.L.

  10. Porn  May 13, 2014 at 12:26 am

    Oո peut dire que ce n’est nullement іnexact ..


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whitby photography by glenn kilpatrick